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Invasion of OAU by Ife traditionalists: Uphold the idea of universitas: The university is global by Rotimi Akeredolu

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The news media is awash with the most disturbing display of ignorance currently being showcased in our alma mater, Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile Ife. The appointment of the Vice Chancellor, an erstwhile rancour-free internal process, has now become a subject of not only intense politicking among the academics and their non-teaching counterparts. The process has, deplorably, been extended to the town with the attendant malcontents.
The latest news on the invasion of the campus by some Ife indigenes and traditionalists, allegedly, to protest the failure by the authorities to appoint “an Ife indigene”, showcases the extent to which the system has sunk, almost irretrievably.
This is, perhaps, symptomatic of the pervasive rot in the academia. This thoughtless, reckless and misguided step forebodes untoward occurrences in the future. A situation which sees totally extraneous elements to the university environment invade the serene ambience to offer support, presumably solicited and sponsored by those who may have lost out in the selection process, is lamentable. There can be no worse signs than these outward display of attitudes alien to the academia.
There is bound to be this creepy feeling from all of us who have partaken of the glorious moments at that Fount of deep intellection and effervescent cultural expressions. To assert that we are disappointed is an understatement. All those responsible for this disgrace should be ashamed of themselves, and this is assuming they possess any sense of shame. This act should elicit the most strident condemnation from all good people. I condemn it without equivocation.
Obafemi Awolowo University has been a pride of the South West Region since her foundation by the purposeful political leadership at that period. Her new status as a national institution notwithstanding, the people of this geo-political space possess this emotional attachment, traceable to the politics of her establishment, anchored on the vision for the redemption of a race from colonialism, its tendentious predilections and the attendant loss of identity.
The motto of this great citadel is “For Learning and Culture”. Any attitude which detracts from this mission must be jettisoned and discouraged. The state of university education reflects the level of development in a society. A citadel of learning turned to a theatre for the most absurd display of inanities cannot contribute meaningfully to the advancement of any country.
The collective pool of resources from the South West Region ensured the establishment of this beautiful university. The institution attracted the best from all over the world. Merit was the only yardstick necessary to undertake any venture and for inclusion in same. Capacity was pivotal in the building of the most beautiful campus on the Continent of Africa.
Our founding fathers had a vision. They had a mission. They picked the best to fulfill these lofty dreams. The current absurdity represents a hope betrayed. The disturbing facts emanating from Ife over an appointment which is internal, almost entirely, reveal the depth of rot in that system. The intensity of campaign for an office which serious scholars declined to take in the past for the fear of distraction, gives a glimpse on the quality of research purportedly undertaken in most places in recent times. It is disheartening!
This latest assault on intellection by elements who, ordinarily, should not have any business with that ambience is unsettling. The silence of the intellectuals in that university suggests complicity and connivance. The supervisory authorities should, as a matter of urgency, weigh in heavily on this strange phenomenon creeping into the university. A university should live up to its charter of establishment. Certificates are awarded on Character and Learning.
The events of the last few days depict, clearly, that our universities seem interested in issues too distant from teaching and research. The painful reality which comes with the knowledge that our Great Ife has joined other erstwhile centres of excellence which deal with the burden of rapidly receding glory, is sad indeed. The fact that the ancestral home of the Yoruba is where this desecration takes place should goad our people to act fast before permanent damage is brought to bear on our collective psyche.
If it is not enough to be a scholar and professor than to be a Vice Chancellor, then we should stop looking elsewhere for reasons for the pervasive decadence in the country. The age of innocence is long gone. The Gown appears too eager to learn from the Town in many ways. The battle seems lost, irredeemably.
The glory has departed.
ARAKUNRIN OLUWAROTIMI O. AKEREDOLU, SAN
GOVERNOR, ONDO STATE/ALUMNUS, GREAT IFE

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Strictly Personal

When the lenders come calling, govt will do worse than Nalule by Joachim Buwembo

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When the now 40-year-old Gertrude Nalule lost her husband in a car crash a couple of years back, a bleak future stared at her with her seven children, five of them biological. But her good neighbours in the Kampala suburb of Namungona came to her rescue and contributed to having a modest house built for her, though not to perfect completion. An apparently good neighbour offered her a small loan of Ush3 million shillings (less than $1,000) to boost her groceries business.

But soon after contracting the debt, Covid-19 struck and the business collapsed. The neighbour demanded his money and amidst painful toiling, Nalule kept paying bits amounting to what she had borrowed. But she hadn’t reckoned with what is now called a mbaata (duck) agreement in Kampalaspeak, agreement moneylenders now prefer, were like a sitting duck, the borrower is made to sign a document declaring that they have sold their property to the lender at a sum much higher than that disbursed.

Nalule had signed a mbaata agreement to the effect that she had sold her home for Ush10 million (about $3,000) and the neighbour wanted “his” house and plot since she had defaulted on the loan. He tried to make her accept a couple of millions to complete the “sale” and she refused to take it. He went to court, which ruled in his favour, and Nalule was sentenced to prison for six months for defaulting. After serving two months in jail, her story ran on NTV, catching the attention of the indefatigable Prime Minister Robinah Nabbanja, who stormed the country’s main prison of Luzira.

Rotting in prison

Nabbanja discovered to her horror that besides Nalule, about 650 other women are also rotting in prison after signing mbaata agreements. Nabbanja swiftly paid off some Ush2.5 million, which the money lender said Nalule still owed in interest, and secured her release.

But even as Nalule cried in relief calling Nabbanja “mother” and “saviour” as she was driven in an official car to go a reunite with her children, she and the prime minister were in for a rude shock. The money lender insisted the home was his and demanded that Nalule’s wretched family (the eldest girl of 17 had missed her O’level final exams while the middle one had missed her primary leaving exams as a result of the mother’s imprisonment) quit immediately. Nabbanja caused a session with the magistrate who had the jailed Nabbanja and yes, he insisted that Nalule surrenders the house, that the law is the law. The prime minister with the victim were left with the mbaata sitting on their chest.

The prime minister’s woes were not about to end. Chief Justice Owiny-Dollo was furious with her tampering with the independence of the judiciary. A statement was immediately issued assuring the judicial officers of his support both in private and public. A couple of days later, the chief justice used the occasion of a judiciary conference to put the prime minister in her place. He explicitly told her to use her zeal in more useful endeavours like supervising the Executive’s non-performing projects including a power dam that closed two months after commissioning. And so on the Nabbanja bashing continued.

‘Duck’ agreements

But as the learned brothers and sisters continue bashing the down-to-earth Nabbanja, they seem not bothered that the country is in the same position as the 650 Ugandan women jailed in their country after signing “duck” agreements and losing their property as well. Yes, the country borrows from foreign money lenders who behave no better than local shylocks who take advantage of widows. We borrow for projects and only a tiny fraction of the loan ever comes to the country. Heaven knows how many billions on our debt account are for granite and road-building materials dug from our soil, most of the rest going to consultancy services paid abroad. The government’s contribution to the project does most of the funding anyway. One lender demanded for the government’s contribution upfront and took it away to earn interest in deposits. A vigilant parliament committee forced them to return the money. Another lender took the country’s contribution to first build a road, and guess where? In wealthy Kuwait. As our judiciary pours scorn on “duck” women victims, someone should tell them the whole country is treated like a duck by foreign lenders.

 

 

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Strictly Personal

‘He’s one of our own’ is a crippling mindset for nation by Tee Ngugi

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Recently, a new senator listed on his Twitter account the number of tribesmen and women he was able — through his influence — to get appointed to various high government positions. The post made no reference to their competency or integrity. What it was celebrating was the ethnic character of the appointees.

The post, innocent on the surface, indicates that Kenya, and Africa by extension, has never really moved away from a virulent and crippling mindset. This mindset gauges an ethnic community’s progress by the number of tribesmen appointed as Cabinet ministers, principal secretaries, and heads of parastatals. In the logic of this retrogressive mentality, it does not matter whether the tribesmen run down a ministry through incompetence, or bankrupt a parastatal through thievery. That is beside the point. The point is that the person running the ministry or department is “one of our own”.

Here is the problem with this mentality. When a person runs down a ministry or bankrupts a parastatal, everyone, including the community from which the managers belong, suffers. When a public hospital no longer functions due to mismanagement, the fallout does not spare the communities from which the health PS and minister hail. When one celebrates the award of a road tender to a tribesman who is not qualified, the resulting shoddy work affects all those who use that road.

Forget easily

The problem with Kenyans is that we forget so easily. We have forgotten that Kanu-era mismanagement and thievery hurt everyone. When Kenya was under Jomo Kenyatta and Daniel arap Moi, their communities did not have the freedom, denied to others, to criticise their regimes. All who dared to do so ended up in jail, or worse, irrespective of their ethnic nationality. By contrast, when the economy improved under Mwai Kibaki, it did not only improve for his community but for everyone.

So the lesson we should have learnt from history and experience is that an ethnic community’s progress is best served by competent and qualified persons, irrespective of their ethnic background. From this viewpoint, it is possible to have your entire community in government and yet have dilapidated schools and hospitals. It is also possible to have no one from your community in government and enjoy a growing economy and quality services.

There are two competing ideas that will determine whether we remain a backward nation characterised by poverty and dysfunction. One proposes that competence and integrity be the drivers of the development process while the other situates ethnic kinship at the centre of the development project. What if the senator had boasted about the number of women, youth, IT specialists, and progressive thinkers he was able to bring into government irrespective of the tribe?

Tragically, we still have a long way to go before we make that mental shift.

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